2013 record: 9-4 overall, 5-3 in Big Ten (2nd in Legends Division)
2013 postseason: Gator Bowl vs. Georgia (24-19 win)
2013 final AP/coaches’ ranking: Unranked/No. 25
Head coach: Bo Pelini (82-58 overall; 82-58 in 7 years at Nebraska)
Offensive coordinator: Tim Beck (7th season, 4th as offensive coordinator)
2013 offensive rankings: 19th rushing offense ( 215.69 ypg); 97th passing offense (196.7 ypg); 59th total offense (412.4 ypg); 48th scoring offense (31.9 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: 8
Defensive coordinator: John Papuchis (7th season, 4th as defensive coordinator)
2013 defensive rankings: 54th rushing defense (156.08 ypg); 32nd passing defense (214.6 ypg); 39th total defense (370.7 ypg); 49th scoring defense (24.8 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: 7
Location: Lincoln, Nebraska
Stadium: Memorial Stadium (92,000; FieldTurf)
Last conference title: 1999
Nebraska is going to run the ball, perhaps better than any team in the Big Ten. Not only do the Huskers return Ameer Abdullah, but they also have Imani Cross and Terrell Newby. The three combined for over 2,400 rushing yards in 2013. When Nebraska does want to take to the air though, having Kenny Bell on the verge of rewriting the school record books is a nice luxury to have.
The ball control concerns have plagued Nebraska each of the past two seasons. Nebraska has lost 38 fumbles the last two seasons, which is incredible when you consider Nebraska has played 27 games in that span. That is almost one and a half fumbles lost per game, nevermind how many fumbles Nebraska has had but recovered.
Nebraska may have position players on offense in pretty good shape, but the offensive line is hitting a reset button this fall. That does not mean it will be shaky, but it does suggest there is going to be some time needed before the unit really starts to gel. How much time will that take? The line will have some upperclassmen on the line but the experience is thin at best. It is worth having some concern about for Nebraska fans, but the Huskers have a pretty good track record when it comes to linemen. The faster the line can come together, the better for Nebraska, obviously. Games against Miami and Michigan State will be difficult hurdles if the offensive line is not together.
MAKE-OR-BREAK GAME: at Michigan State
Nebraska is going to get what could be an entertaining home game against Miami form the ACC in September, but the true measuring stick for the Huskers will come in the first weekend of October. That is when Nebraska heads to East Lansing to take on the defending Big Ten champions, Michigan State. The Huskers may very well return home with a loss in that game, but how they perform against that caliber of defense could be an indicator for what to expect for the rest of the season. After Michigan State the Huskers get a bye week to spend some time learning and reviewing what has worked and what has not to that point. The Michigan State game could give some positive signs for the second half of the season or it could set up what could be a rough two months ahead in Lincoln.
HEISMAN HOPEFUL: RB Ameer Abdullah
This one is easy. Running back Ameer Abdullah is considered one of the best in the Big Ten (along with Melvin Gordon of Wisconsin) and the nation. Last year Abdullah led the Big Ten in rushing with 1,690 rushing yards but he entered the endzone just nine times. That could very well change a bit in 2014 as Abdullah takes on even more of a workload, if you can believe that. With the quarterback situation in a bit of a transition, Abdullah should be counted on time and time again to lead the offense. Fortunately, this is something he should be able to handle more often than not.
(Click HERE for the CFT 2014 Preseason Preview Repository)